Saturday, December 19, 2009


My favorite actor, who moonlights as our plumber, electrician, carpenter, and general handyman (between rehearsals and performances), has slaved over our vintage toilets. We've got three that he's been fixing and re-fixing.

A leak, in my green bathroom, became major. JC turned off the water main, took apart the toilet till he saw that a large washer was cracked and leaking. The guy who owns our neighborhood hardware store looked at it, groaned, and said --"Hey man, where'd you get this toilet? In India?"

We laughed politely. We'd been reading "White Tiger," a darkly comic novel about a boy growing up in rural India, where electricity and indoor toilets don't exist --just holes as depicted in the "Slumdog Millionaire" movie.

It was serious -- any one of our toilets could spring a leak and become unfixable. And our three vintage toilets use about seven gallons per flush. Aside from our sky-high water bills, we were wasting water. Warnings about water shortages in New York City are dire.

Anyhow, with the help of our hardware store and our super, a new, modern, ultra- low flow toilet was installed. Whosh! It was marvelous. We immediately replaced the other two.

Great! Progress! But then I happened upon "Guardian.Co.UK," the Guardian Environment Network, and read about composting human manure -- read an eco-blogger who felt as if a light bulb went off in his head when he learned about "hmanure," and proceeded to replace his porcelain toilet with a bucket.

Here's one of the pictures I found.

I saw a book review on Amazon for the "Humanure Handbook," by Joseph Jenkins. In his book, Jenkins says, proves, and is touting that we stop wasting water, and replace toilets with buckets, and using sawdust to eliminate odor.

Is it something one can do in the heart of New York City?

Practical Em immediately wondered what would we do with the bucket? Use it for our garden, if we had a garden? We don't, though some New York buildings (in the best, high-rent neighborhoods where upper-upper class people live), have wonderful gardens on their roofs.

Meanwhile, I read about other places that have been experimenting.

In Austin, Texas, a nonprofit group, called the Rhizome Collective, succeeded this year in getting the city to approve what may be the first legal composting toilet in the U.S.

An ecologist in Chicago got her neighbors to stop using their toilets and start saving their poop. More than half of them — 22 of the 35 households — accepted her proposal and have been using buckets for the past three months.

In three months the ecologist picked up 1,500 gallons (5,700 pounds) of excrement, which she'll give back to participants this spring to use in their gardens, after she and Mother Nature have transformed it into a rich bag of fertilizer.

In Marin county, a Portable Odorless Outhouse Project, a/k/a MCPOOP, has convinced the county to put humanure toilets in county parks and town squares.

What about toilet paper? Do you drop the toilet paper into the bucket -- does paper with compost affect the viability compost?

Whoa ... One click, and I was reading about re-usable toilet paper, a/k/a "wipes."

Here's the sales pitch: "They're comfy and definitely green, environmentally friendly. You can use them wet, and they won't fall apart. It's a lot more comfortable and soft on your most delicate body parts. It's also more economical, uses less paper and we deliver -- saves you carrying bulky packages home from the store."

Without judging this product, but wondering why it's "more comfortable," I read the instructions on how to use, and re-use "green" wipes?

The manufacturer says:
(1) "Shake, scrape, swish, or squirt off anything you don't want in your laundry, and then toss the wipe into the pail or container."

(2) "Store used wipes in a wet bag or a diaper pail. " (Manufacturer includes a paragraph about hanging, storing in various out of the way places.)

(3) "Wash wipes separately from other laundry, in hot water, with bleach, and any fabric softener you prefer. Dry in the dryer."

Hmm ...

Is this a subject to be discussing on my blog?

Well ... it's in the news, so other people are wondering about it ...

Okay! I'm glad we have the three new toilets, but ... graduating to the bucket, sawdust, and green wipes?

If and when the time comes, I'll vote for it -- I'll join in, but I have to utter a very quiet "ick" and confess -- I'm glad we're not there yet.

Friday, December 18, 2009

AVATAR thinks this film is a sure-fire almost for BEST DIRECTOR, BEST PICTURE.

Director James Cameron has meticulously researched and created the world of "Pandora" (a new planet), for "Avatar," just as he did when he re-created the ship, for his movie "Titanic."

The $300 million that has been spent on thousands of special effects, and a new simulcam tool enabled Cameron to see his actors, as they acted in grey space, while he shot the computer-generated (CG) scenes that comprise about 60% of the finished film.

The cast, in body-suits covered with markers that the 102 cameras on the ceiling recognized, wore skullcaps rigged with tiny cameras that imaged their faces. They appear in the film as their alien counterparts.

Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington play the leads -- Worthington as ex-Marine "Jake" struggles for survival on Pandora, where a tall, blue, humanoid species (the Na'vi), try to destroy anyone who migrates there.

Jake, transformed into an Avatar so he can breathe the noxious air on Pandora, falls in love with a Na'vi woman, and lands in the center of the humans versus Na'vi battle. Click and you'll see the romantic pair.

You can watch the movie as escapist entertainment, but to me it seems to be a dire warning about humanity's current path. In any case, Cameron's vision of the future is a stunning environment -- flying jellyfish, bio-luminescent forests, fan lizards and big-eyed, giant cats.

Will Avatar be a boxoffice hit?

Well ... it's one more of those innovative, blow-your-mind theatrical films that tend to bore me.

In the movies about "Triffids," body-snatcher pods, the un-dead, the man-eating blob -- there are leading actors who get me tensely involved. Others, like "ANTZ" with the Spielberg CG creatures fighting other CG creatures -- even with the voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, I found myself eating my popcorn and restlessly checking my wrist-watch.)

"I Robot" fascinated me at first -- but 30 minutes into the plot I knew where the Robots were heading. And the final attack scenes -- the amazing trapeze arts of Will Smith with the camera zooming, flying with him were very exciting, but whether Will and the girl survived was sort of ho hum for me.

I think the scare that's on us -- about killer poisons, bombs, terrorists, what's happening to the polar bears, icebergs. dolphins, the staving masses of people, the distortions of the truth about safety in the air, in cars, the prison shows, serial killers, child predators, supremacists, assassination T shirts ... it's hard to be concerned about the fantastical, unreal-looking people in the spectacular environment of "Avatar."

Hurray for the director, for doing all that he did -- frame by frame meticulously pushing his mind and imagination beyond where he (or any other filmakers) have been before.

But I need to care, and I can't identify with what's before my eyes in "Avatar."

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I'm having nightmares, tossing and turning, about what's being done to Tiger Woods. (See my Dec.9th post about him.)

We are now encouraging anyone he went to bed with -- to confess, grab a few second of fame, and be somebody.

This could go on for years. He's young. Girls are what young boys see and learn how to relate to, learn to want, love, and make love to. Do you need to hear about how he did this or that in bed, how many times, with whom, where, when? Then, watch a porno, read a dirty book, phone a sex hot line -- there are hundreds of other ways to get your kicks.

Elliot Spitzer, an exceptionally valuable man with knowledge, government experience on many levels, who can help the city, the state, other states as well as the White House, is finally (after we've kicked him around), creeping back into the world , strongly, bravely speaking his mind on current urgent issues.

We need Spitzer. We've participated, nodded, listened to and enjoyed a lot of ugly, destructive media follow-up on his sex life, his wife, and the girl. I'm hoping we'll let him rise again, while we're listening, tut-tutting over more banal revelations about the ambitious young couple who crashed the White House party.

Hey, we've got better shocking things to focus on -- that pretty American girl in Italy -- did she or didn't she participate in a sexual orgiastic murder? And we're not done with the Casey Anthony trial -- the face of Caylee, the child she murdered a year ago, and how Casey did it still haunts me. Will the death penalty be on, or off the table?

We've got the paralyzed murderer in the hospital at Fort Hood to cringe over, hate, despise. And wow -- heavy serous HATE problems, a deadly contagious infection of anti-everything in Washington D.C.

We need Tiger Woods in the world of sports, for what he is, and what he does -- need him as an example to all of us -- men, woman, kids, any color, all races -- of how work, striving, thinking, studying, practicing can turn a person into a hero.

No more discussion, psychoanalyzing, rehashing, blogs, tweets, celebrity commentator's with their opinions. Or Letterman, Leno jokes.

We need Tiger Woods at the Masters in Augusta in April.

Stop talking about it! Let Tiger Woods do what he wants to do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The man is complicated (like the movie that just opened), and a rock -- a star actor in "30 Rock," who's memorable, no matter what part he's playing.

I was sitting in the audience at an awards ceremony, when Alec Baldwin, at the podium, microphone in hand, told the audience that when he was a kid, he decided to be an actor like John Cullum, after he saw Cullum in the musical "Shenandoah."

I loved the compliment. He was talking about my husband.

JC won his first Tony, Best Actor in a Musical, for the starring role he played in "Shenandoah." As Charlie Anderson, a Virginia farmer, he was powerfully strong, and deeply moving, protesting the Civil War and mourning the death of his son.

Baldwin, probably in his late teens when he first saw the show, certainly did go on to make a career for himself as an actor in theater, films, and television. And he's told the press about "Shenandoah" quite a few times, as his career as a strong, macho, commanding, male star has progressed.

He's a major actor in demand, constantly working, but lately, Baldwin has been announcing that his current project is his last. And just a few days ago, while promoting the film "Complicated" -- starring Meryl Streep and Baldwin as her ex-husband, he said -- when his contract with "30 Rock" expires, "that's it."

The Variety review of the world premiere of "Complicated" says: "(Baldwin) he's a hoot -- enthusing about his re-conquest, a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face as he raves about how hot his ex-wife (Streep) is ... has a blast as the paunchy, graying hound-dog and enthusiastically shares his good times with the audience."

If Alec Baldwin reads reviews, I'm sure he, (like JC), doesn't make decisions about his life, his future, based on reviews. But he's saying that in 2012, his screen career is also going to be over -- explaining, in his very matter-of-fact, macho way -- "I consider my screen career to be a complete failure."

Does he mean it? Or is it "actoritis" --the same fever that JC and our actor son get? Both of them come down with it, after every project. Most good actors don't like to watch themselves in films -- they often "hate" the way they look and want to re-direct themselves in every other scene.

(Amateurs usually are amazed, delighted, thrilled to see themselves on the screen. Maybe it's a tell-tale sign -- a way one can tell if the actor's a trained actor, or someone who just lucked into the job.)

My sense about Baldwin, garnered from the many roles he's played -- he's a character actor, not the leading-man, romantic hero type -- he's at his best when he's playing a man with convictions, a guy with political passion, who's ready to fix the world.

The way Alec Baldwin handled the mess about his daughter during his divorce, the way he doesn't beat around the bush, when he's telling a reporter, or the an audience what's wrong with our country -- culturally, legally, morally -- it's as if he belongs in politics.

He wouldn't be a Republican, that's for sure. As a Democrat he'd be outspoken, not on the side of an issue because the party's supporting it -- only supporting an idea he believes in.

What part would he want to play in theater? "King Lear" -- the father who's stunned, shocked, unable to accept the fact that his youngest daughter can no longer simply obey him?

Yes, he'd be interesting as "Lear." There was quite a to-do, headlines in media, over him cursing his real daughter for not returning his phone calls. But that's Baldwin --he's a man who's compelled by inner fires, to speak his mind.

I hope he doesn't quit in 2012. He's worth watching. You never know what he, as the character he's playing, will reveal about himself next.

Yes. I'm giving him the Cullum Award for excellence. With his name on the marquee, and his presence -- you're on a trip -- not sure where it'll take you, or where you'll end up , but you know you won't be bored.

If he goes into politics, no doubt about it -- I'll vote for him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Here, in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, is Dubai.

Would you want to live there, or vacation there?

If I were starting out and dreaming of being a dancer, where would I go to make it and build a dance company -- New York, L.A., or London, Paris, Tel Aviv? What about Dubai?

How much money would you need to visit Dubai for a week? I checked -- about $1500 minimum -- the lower price hotels are $150 to $200 a day (the highest price is $20,000). Could you find a room, a tourist home in the area where Dubai's workers live?

Whenever I mention New York City to a techie (an Indian, a Filipino, who's helping me with my computer), they say, "Oh I'd love to visit." I always say, "Don't come unless you have a lot of money -- it'll cost more than $100 a day -- you can't live comfortably in Manhattan, unless you're earning about $100,000 a year."

(Maybe that's too high a figure, but I don't encourage anyone to come NYC for a vacation or to live.)

When I was in my teens, before I came to New York, everyone said, "Don't do it -- it's expensive -- you can't find a decent, inexpensive place to live -- you'll have to get a full time job -- you can't study dancing if you've got a full-time job."

But I found a part-time job in a settlement house that paid me two-dollars-an-hour, and a cold-water "railroad" flat on 15th street, six rooms, no heat, no hot water, five flight walk up --$30 a month. I rented out four rooms (painted the front room blue, and slept on a futon on my robin's egg blue floor).

My roommates each paid $15 a month. The biggest problem was our bath schedule -- the tub was in kitchen (a double-sink covered by the board we used for a dining table). The next biggest problem was getting roommates to pay -- like me, they had part time jobs and were short of money.

Today, the money numbers are different, but the situation in Manhattan is the same. The highly-skilled sound designer/engineer for our podcast (A.I.R. Broadcasting --it's coming soon), lives with four roommates, and pays $500 per month for a room that's smaller than the smallest room in my old cold-water flat. He's currently handling three part-time jobs, so he can pay his bills.

So what about Dubai? With its lavish restaurants, bars, theaters, hotels, and gigantic mall -- all places where music is undoubtedly played -- surely there's high level employment for a young, skilled, sound engineer. It sounds like a heaven for techies.

Dubai, once a pearl-fishing village, has been transformed into a paradise -- a tax free, free-trade oasis, with Internet, media, finance, maritime projects, and state-owned development companies that need beautiful buildings with massive space, and spectacularly fancy decor. The government is already advertizing space in the fabulously unique, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab, claiming it's the most expensive hotel in the world.

There's also an unfinished 160 story Burj Dubai (it'll be our planet's tallest building). It overlooks a coastline of man-made islands that are currently under construction -- each island, shaped like the leaf of the datepalm (it's the center of the archipelago) -- each frond named after an important place on the map of the world.

And Dubailand, the mall that's, scheduled to be completed in 2014, will cover 107 square miles, with 45 "mega projects" and 200 sub projects -- sports, entertainment, fashion, the largest collection of theme parks in the world.

The list of world-famous corporations involved -- well, I have to say it reminds me of the names on Bernie Madoff's list of investors.

Right now each "name" seems like a brick in a foundation put together -- brick by brick -- without cement, just the gel of evocative, cleverly worded enticements, which give you the feeling that you're going to be surrounded with glamor, breathtaking luxuries, endless joys.

So is Dubai a Mecca for the educated, skilled, ambitious, creative new generation of entrepreneurs -- the super-brainy, innovative techies?

Should I tell our sound designer/engineer to head there?

The fact is, Dubai's in a slump right now. According to various, reliable news reports, its business ventures have been hit with the economic troubles that have hit the U.S. -- real estate prices dropping 50%; new construction all but stopped. Though the major backers downplay the rising debt, despite their $15 billion investment bailout, unpaid bills are mounting.

But, I know from my own experience -- you can get a foot-hold, and create a brilliant future for yourself, if you're starting from scratch and things look bleak. Why? Because there's less competition.

Fabulous, grandiose Dubai ... Is it a new world? Or is it the old world, high-gloss painted, polished, silver and gold-plated, set with gems. Is it an Emerald City in Oz?

Gee, if you're feeling feisty, and you can scrounge up the money, why not go and have a look!

Monday, December 14, 2009


McCain looked rested, and quite relaxed, the other night on Meet the Press, responding to David Gregory's questions.

What a relief it was -- McCain's words, his tone of voice -- to see and hear him supporting and respecting Obama's decisions about the war in Afghanistan. Okay -- McCain worries about the date for withdrawal and ending the war being stated, but he didn't denigrate Obama -- he respectfully stated his concern, and explained why.

Ever since election eve last November, when McCain conceded the election, stood on stage at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, with his wife and Sarah Palin, and thanked his loyal supporters in the audience, I've been uneasy about McCain.

That night, he smiled, and seemed relieved that the long campaign was over. He stopped his audience from booing, whenever he mentioned Obama's name. He made no reference to the two women on stage with him -- his wife in her expensive gold suit, standing stiffly on one side, Palin on the other side, looking unsure, a bit bewildered.

During this past year, McCain, the surviving war hero, has been letting us know, again and again, that he knows how the president should deal with war, economy, unemployment, failing banks, and the failing automobile industry. Whenever John McCain has expressed his opinion on Obama's doings, I've usually groaned, turned away, or changed the channel.

Why? His unforgettable, disturbing behavior during the debates -- McCain didn't shake hands or look directly at Obama, To me, it seemed as if McCain couldn't acknowledge Obama as an equal.

The other night, with David Gregory, it was great – to see a fresher-faced, younger-looking McCain -- no stiff, gold wife like a statue watching over him -- just the guy himself.

I can't help it -- tick tick goes my mind -- why did he marry Cindy Lou Hensley? Did he pick Cindy because she has personal wealth, business acumen, and unshakable, consistent behavior? Maybe McCain, the lover, needed to know exactly, precisely what he was committing himself to -- "till death do us part?"

(She seems so "un-juicy" --always nice, nifty, neat -- reliably elegant -- but golly -- she's so ... well, I can't imagine the two of them "cuddling.")

Anyhow, I'm chirping and cheerful, glad to have the support from John McCain, Republican standard bearer (one of the very few Republicans who hasn't sold his soul to the party, and embraced its current policy of rejecting, negating, hating every idea that emerges from our black president's White House. )

Will we ever learn more about Cindy McCain, the school teacher, daughter of a wealthy beer manufacturer?

And get to know their first child Meghan, who's rumored to be "mad at the media." Will we learn how the second and third kids (two years apart), are doing -- John Sidney McCain IV (known as Jack), and son James (Jimmy)? And what about the McCain's adopted Bangladeshi orphan, Bridget (sixteen now, black and, very un-assimilated-looking)?

My curiosity isn't gossip-mongering -- the children tell a lot about the parents real selves.

Okay -- I have a sense that Obama's decisions about the war, his lack of "let's get in it and win it" rah-rah -- his de-emphasizing, downsizing the war on terrorism, is good.

It's a new direction that engenders a small hope -- that religion -- where, who, and what you believe in will become less, and less important.

For me, that's the intolerable terror of our war on terrorism -- that we have to kill people who believe killing us is right -- beautiful -- sublime martyrdom.

Am I naive to hope, wish, pray that the war, this one, and the others that are looming, can be avoided, if we focus on live, let others live?

I need to say it again, another way that fits me -- believe in what you believe in, but respect, and allow others do that too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


What do I know ... ? I know what I hear and see.

Jimi Hendrix -- crazy, wild, when he played with his left hand he was great --played with his right -- he was great -- played with both hands -- whoa!

It was showmanship, and a clown, playing with his nose, his teeth, squatting, playing lying down, playing with the guitar over his head, and unbelievably, playing with his guitar behind his back. And then, he's the guy who coaxed flames out of his guitar, burned the guitar, smashed it.

Have a quick look at Hendrix in "Wild Thing."

Today we've got Dave Grohl, Foo Fighter's guitar man. (The current Time Magazine has a feature on him, that inspired me to check around, and hear who else is IN nowadays.)

Dave said his real love is drums -- here's Grohl in a solo concert.

Grohl's playing, his thub-thuba-boom -- a somewhat heavy-handed sound -- suggests drums to me. It's okay -- it gets to you, but not like Tommy Emmanuel .

Who is this Emmanuel guy? Ageless but definitely not young. I never saw or heard anything as riveting.

Here he is playing Boogie.

(I have to confess -- I was riveted by Jack Black's "School of Rock" -- saw it four times -- the guitar-playing kids, and Jack -- his committed madness -- Jack's and the kids' intense immersion in the music knocks me out.)

I asked JD (my son), who plays -- he's why and how I learned to play the guitar -- whom he thinks is the best. JD sent me a "sampler."

He wanted me to hear CHET ATKINS, whom he called "the grandfather of finger-style guitar." He included TOMMY EMMANUEL, "with his amazing rhythm and energy."
DANNY GALTON, "a phenomenon who committed suicide -- for no apparent reason."
MARTIN SIMPSON, "British player -- about-three-and-a-half minutes into the solo, Martin shows you his incredible technique."
ANDY MCKEE, someone JD discovered on YouTube.
And MARCEL DADI , "a great finger-style player who died on TWA 800 -- the plane that blew up off Long Island."

If you have time, browse with your eyes and ears. These guys make an interesting Sunday concert. Here's JD's guitar Sampler

My favorite is Tommy Emmanuel.